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Movie reviews: Rolling the dice with a new G.I. Joe movie

If you saw the first two "G.I. Joe" movies, you know there was room for improvement.
Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

SNAKE EYES

If you saw the first two "G.I. Joe" movies, you know there was room for improvement. Enter "Snake Eyes" and a chance to breathe new life into the franchise. Henry Golding grabbed our attention as the romantic lead in "Crazy Rich Asians." Director Robert Schwentke taking a risk here: can a rom-com star morph into an action hero?  Yes, he can, and Golding put in the work to be convincing in his fight scenes. Careful editing also helps. But with all origin stories, you have to slog through a lot to get to the good stuff.

We find out how Snake Eyes got his name.  As a boy, his father operated a safehouse. Bad guys find him, and a roll of the dice determines his fate. Snake eyes, he dies. You get the picture. The son becomes a street fighter. An operative likes his moves and offers him a job. The payoff? he'll lead him to his father's killer. Before that can happen, Snake Eyes saves a young man who brings him home to Tokyo. (He'll become 'Storm Shadow'.) He offers Snake Eyes the chance to join the family clan, if he's able to pass a three-prong test. The last one: embody honor or have three giant anacondas squeeze the life out of you. The movie might do that by the time you get there!  Loyalties become confused, a powerful stone is revealed. Yah, lots of stuff. "Snake Eyes" is just good enough. When the title character is revealed in all his glory, we can only hope for bigger and better things ahead.

(Paramount Pictures. Rated PG-13. Running time 2 hrs. In theaters only)

OLD

 Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has reached that rarified air of 'name above the title,' which can be both a blessing and a curse. After his 1999 breakout film, "The Sixth Sense," he's been hit-or-miss, enjoying a recent resurgence with his "Unbreakable" trilogy. "Old" is not entirely original, based on the graphic novel "Sandcastle." It's also the first of Shyamalan's works not filmed in or around his hometown of Philadelphia. After all, no tropical beaches there last time I checked, and that's the setting of "Old." Tourists arrive at an all-inclusive resort and are soon offered the chance to get away to a secluded beach for the day. They soon notice something's not right. They're all aging, and not for lack of sunscreen. They become a year older every half hour with devastating consequences, and there's no way off the beach.

So, will "Old" stand the test of time? The concept is intriguing, and the international cast (Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Rufus Sewell) does what they can with what they're given, but the dialogue is clunky. Exploring the 'live for the moment' theme, doesn't go far enough to be meaningful. The moments of terror are too fleeting to elicit any real chills. I wish Shyamalan had pushed the envelope further. It would have paid off. That said, there is a trademark twist which I liked a lot, but overall, the sands of time are likely to run out on this one.

(Universal Pictures. Rated PG-13. Running time 2 hrs. 49 mins. In theaters only)

JOE BELL

Ironically, "Joe Bell" uses a "Sixth Sense" device in its storytelling, and I won't say any more about that! Joe is a father, played by Mark Wahlberg. Reid Miller plays his son, Jadin. The movie is from the writers of "Brokeback Mountain." It's based on the true story of an Oregon man who sets out to walk cross-country to New York to honor his gay teenaged son who's taken his own life. Dad did his best to understand, but struggled, now he bears the burden of regret. So, along his walk, he'll talk to just about anyone who will listen, about the harm of bullying and the power of kindness.

This is one of Wahlberg's better performances. A devoted family man himself, you see the 'dad' in him play out, and Miller is a revelation, confident yet broken inside. Their chemistry is just what it should be. If this film changes the ways of one person, it's done its job. I'm just not sure the appeal is broad enough to pull in a big audience.

(Roadside Attractions. Rated R. Running time 1 hr. 33 mins. In theaters only)